Bridget McGraw: Arcata’s Legal Graffiti Wall – Free Expression On Middle Ground – December 23, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Graffiti is everywhere. Whether one sees graffiti as an amazing art form and means of expression, or a costly, unsightly vandalism, there is no denying that it has a presence in Arcata. How can the two viewpoints find a medium, one that allows for continued expression, but diminishes the damage to private property?

A legal wall, on public property, is the best idea. Having a place where it is acceptable and safe to throw up one’s work offers a positive outlet.

Rather than the current option of committing a crime and facing strong consequences, people would have access to a public space, which should be meant for the people and their benefit.

The Lennon Wall, Prague, Czech Republic, June, 2009. Photo by Bridget McGraw

Simply punishing someone without giving them an alternative outlet is only a short-term band-aid. A legal wall would be that necessary redirection of energies that helps bring about true and lasting change.

For the business owners and others who do not appreciate seeing graffiti all over, this wall should help concentrate it into a specific area. This in turn should decrease the amount of graffiti on private property, because it would shift focus away from the areas currently targeted. That ultimately means that the amount of money spent covering it up and making repairs would also decrease.

For graffiti artists, and anyone who feels a desire to convey their message or leave a mark on public awareness, a legal wall would create community. It would provide a place where anyone can throw up anything, and create a dialogue between all the people who both contribute to it and view it.

A vision for the ultimate atmosphere around this space is similar to that of the Lennon Wall in Prague, Czech Republic. It is a spot with meaning, culture, art and expression that is a safe place for people to share their ideas.

It looks different every day, as people are constantly making their own additions to it, and has become a major part of the city’s heart.

A great amount of work still needs to be done, more ideas given and actions taken, to take this from an idea in a student’s head to a visual reality.

Part of the genius of this wall is that, through the process of creating it, people collaborate and work together, which is one of the main goals of the final product itself.

Bridget McGraw is a recent transfer student at HSU, who formerly studied at Franklin College Switzerland.


8 Responses to “Bridget McGraw: Arcata’s Legal Graffiti Wall – Free Expression On Middle Ground – December 23, 2010”

  1. setnaffa

    What’s wrong with expecting people to respect each others property? Why should the community be required to provide a palette for these “artists”?

    I am certain that local businesses would be willing to help out those who are willing to exchange labor for “art supplies”. Or maybe the city could use these “artists” to pick up trash and sweep sidewalks?

    Otherwise, we are training people to expect the world to give them whatever they want without them providing anything in return.

    That makes them thieves or parasites, by some standards. Not a good use for tax dollars…

  2. dwayne montane

    I’d support the graffiti wall. That said, i also find it annoying when kids deface store fronts with their tags. Believe it or not their is an art to tagging and graffiti. Most of the graffiti people see are done by amateurs and are in public places. Often the best pieces take time to create and can be found on derelict buildings and beneath bridges. There are many famous artists who began as graffiti artists. For a good time on a rainy day check this out….

  3. Sounds good, I support it

    for one, it will keep a lot of amateur graffiti writers off the streets, which, though i do thoroughly enjoy, can be overwhelmingly seen as vandalism.

    but also because it would give street artists a risk free, hopefully police free, area to develop their style and display their talent, which our “community of artists” should be embracing, not shunning away

    However, a legal wall will never deter a more dedicated, and conscious street artist from taking over any space they see fit; and it might only go to create more street artists, through increased public support

    just love us already!

  4. A legal means of popular creative expression for youth…excellent!


    Have you not heard that it is not polite to “use” People?

    As to, “training people to expect the world to give them whatever they want without them providing anything in return. That makes them thieves or parasites, by some standards. Not a good use for tax dollars…”, I suppose you consider Redwood Park, and all parks for that matter, to be Institutes of Criminology and Parasitism. Come on!

  5. Ned Turner

    This is a great idea. Right now graffiti has become more and more noticeable in Arcata. This would provide an area for these artists! It would also spread the knowledge of graffiti and the ways to effectively paint what could and should be painted without worrying about reciprocations of the law. It also allows people to learn that private property should NEVER be painted without the owner of the house allowing it. Hopefully this will all work out.

    Oh and @setnaffa, calling humans “parasites” shows your complete disregard for the human race and moving forward. No one likes you and no one fucking cares.

  6. Ned Turner

    Just make graffiti legal with guidelines! It being illegal helps no one

  7. Can Urban art live in the gallery? Check out thisfascinating clip from the hip hop documentary Style Wars, when graffiti artists were first accepted into the “art world” Urban Art for sale?


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